Peru’s Lerner Ghitis Meets Hillary Clinton to Discuss Drug Trade

Peruvian Prime Minister Salomon Lerner Ghitis met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, a key meeting during his visit to several institutions in Washington D.C., state news agency Andina reported.  

Lerner Ghitis and Clinton were to discuss the fight against drug trafficking and U.S. cooperation with Peru.

In recent years, Peru has been the world’s second biggest producer of cocaine behind Colombia.

However, in an October 19 testimony before the Senate Caucus on International Drug Control, Rodney Benson, the assistant administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that the U.S. now estimates that Peru is the biggest producer.

“Although Colombia remains the world’s largest cultivator of coca, for the first time in over a decade, the U.S. government estimates that Peru has surpassed Colombia in potential pure cocaine production,” Benson said.

Benson said that overall cocaine production has decreased due to “significant successes” in Colombia, but there has been an increase in Peru as well as Bolivia, the world’s third largest cocaine producer.

“These changes highlight the fluid nature and regional character of the drug trade,” he said.

The U.S. government estimates that Peru’s high-yielding mature coca fields allowed the country to turn out 325 metric tons of pure cocaine in 2010, up 44% from 2009 and the highest production level since 1995. In contrast, Colombia’s estimated production was 270 metric tons last year.

“The considerable increase in Peru’s cocaine production is due to a combination of factors, including shifting production within the Andean region, growing demand in emerging markets, and challenges in coca eradication in Peru’s traditional growing areas,” Benson said.

While the U.S. is the world’s top market for cocaine consumption, Peruvian cocaine, unlike cocaine produced in Colombia, is mainly destined for markets in Europe, Asia and Australia, Benson said.

“High profit margins have provided powerful incentives for Peruvian farmers and drug traffickers to expand their activities to help meet market demand,” he added.

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